6 Tips to Keep Your Resume FreshSep 09, 2022
Did you know that September is officially International Update Your Resume Month?
Yep! If you aren’t sure where to start, check these six tips to ensure your resume isn’t old and moldy.
- The one-page resume myth
Unless you are an entry-level candidate, the one-page resume just doesn’t give enough information for a company to evaluate your qualifications. Believe it or not, companies have preferred the two-page resume for over 20 years.
When employers adopted the digital Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or online applications, the system would convert the resumes to text. As a result, many resumes would automatically flow onto two pages, regardless of how tiny the font was or how tight the margins were.
While the ATS is more sophisticated now, recruiters and HR have accepted the two-page resume as the standard.
- Use relevant keywords
HR relies heavily on keywords to help them screen applicants for just about any job. Even smaller companies can now afford the next generation of ATS, making the screening process more common. For these reasons, job seekers must make sure that they are using relevant keywords.
So, how do we know which ones are the relevant keywords?
There is a mix of “smart” and “stupid” keywords in any job posting. A smart keyword is anything directly related to the job, while stupid keywords are vague. For example, we have all seen “excellent communication skills” in practically every job description.
However, you need BOTH types of keywords in your resume. So yes, HR is really using those stupid keywords to screen your resume! You need a 60-70% keyword match on any job posting to get through the screening computers.
Secret #2: Keywords change over time. The hot phrases from five years ago may no longer be used in your industry. Therefore, you must research your keywords carefully to ensure that you capture the right ones for your target job.
- Remove irrelevant information
Here’s the other secret with resumes: sometimes, it’s a matter of knowing what to take out as much as what to put in.
Irrelevant information, keywords, achievements, or old jobs do not enhance your candidacy. Instead, they distract the reader from what is important. Remember, resumes are screened within 6-10 seconds. If the recruiter or hiring manager must wade through a sea of words, they may not find your strengths.
- Look out for problems with Word templates
Yes, Microsoft Word does provide resume templates. Some might even look nice. However, most of them are not compatible with the dreaded ATS system.
Many templates use tables to format the information. While it looks fine to humans, computers will misinterpret it. While humans read the words from left to right ACROSS the page, computers read the first COLUMN DOWN, then jump over to the second column. Also, whenever the table rows or columns don’t line up – like our example pictured below – it usually confuses the ATS.
In this sample, the table lines are made visible as dotted lines. They are not printed, but you can see how a computer wouldn’t know how to handle this.
If you find that none of your information parses correctly when you upload your resume into an online application, chances are that the formatting tools are confusing the computers.
But what about text boxes, you may ask? Well, most ATS will completely ignore anything within that box. It can’t map it, so it doesn’t know where the information belongs.
- Avoid creative – yet confusing – headings
Even if you aren’t using tables in your resume, sometimes the ATS will not find your information. Why?
The ATS looks at your section headings to determine what information goes where. So, for example, if you use creative headers like “Career History” instead of “Experience,” the computer doesn’t know what it is.
- Look out for graphics
The ATS hates graphics. It doesn’t know what they are. So, rather than creating a visual representation of your proficiency with your skills, it literally makes an error on your application. Sometimes, it will just ignore the information. However, sometimes the errors become overwhelming, and the ATS deletes or ignores ALL the information in your resume.
One more note about text boxes: if your resume places any words in the text boxes, most ATS will completely ignore anything within that box.
While graphically-driven resumes are fine for emailing to humans, do not use them for online applications.
Keeping it fresh
Every couple of months, read through your resume with a critical eye. Are the keywords still effective? Are the descriptions of your experience engaging and written in an active voice? Are you addressing any of the current trends in your industry?
We like to say that modern resumes are a cross of poetry and computer code. Both are difficult to write for very different reasons. If you are struggling to make your resume sing, contact us for a complimentary consultation:
Wondering how effective your job search is? Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with one of our career coaches, Donna Shannon or Dia Kline